Happy 17th Birthday to My Son

No special message today.

I just thought I’d acknowledge my son’s birthday.  His party is tomorrow, which is being combined with a Father’s Day celebration for our parents. The party will include my pulled pork, homemade baked beans, cucumber salad, chips/dip, watermelon and an ice cream cake.

Pictures and menu details later.

Rosemary Chicken with Tomato-Avocado Salsa

Rosemary Chicken with Tomato-Avocado Salsa
Serve 6

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 ounces each)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Black pepper

1.  Place chicken breasts inside a Ziploc freezer bag. With a rubber mallet or similar tool, pound the breast to 1/4 inch thickness. Season the breasts with black pepper.
2.  Combine oil, vinegar, rosemary and garlic in another Ziploc bag. Place chicken in bag and toss to coat. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
3.  While the chicken rests in the refrigerator, prepare the salsa (below.)
4.  Preheat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium high heat. Place each breast in skillet and cook until done (about 3 minutes per side.)
5.  Serve with salsa.

Nutritional data (1 chicken breast):
Calories:         308
Fat:               16.6g
Sat fat:            3.8g
Chol:               98mg
Sodium:           62mg
Carbs:             1.2g
Fiber:              0.2g
Protein:         37.7g

Tomato-Avocado Salsa
Serves 6

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped

1.  In a 1 quart or larger bowl, combine first four ingredients with a whisk.
2.  Add tomatoes, cheese and avocado.
3.  Serve immediately.

Nutritional data (1/2 cup portion):
Calories:         126
Fat:               10.9g
Sat fat:            2.6g
Chol:              8.3mg
Sodium:          112mg
Carbs:             6.3g
Fiber:              3.1g
Protein:           2.6g

Ginger Sesame Pork

Ginger Sesame Pork
Serves 4

4 pork chops (bone-in or boneless) approximately 6 ounces each
1 teaspoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, mashed and minced
2 tablespoon fresh ginger, crushed and minced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon Hoisin sauce
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

1.  Season pork chops with pepper. (Use Chinese Five Spice powder if you have it.)
2.  Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil and place the pork chops in it.  Cook until finished (3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness.)  You may need to cook them in two batches if your skillet is not large enough to hold them all.
3.  Remove pork from heat and cover to keep warm.
4.  In the same skillet, add half the sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Saute over med-high heat until fragrant (about one minute.)
5.  Add remaining sesame oil, marmalade, vinegar, water and Hoisin sauce. Stir constantly until the mixture is combined and hot, about 2 minutes.
6.  Serve about 2 tablespoons sauce over each chop.
7.  Top with cilantro.

Nutritional data:
Calories:      335
Fat:            21.5g
Sat fat:         6.4g
Chol:            83mg
Sodium:      380mg
Carbs:         6.9g
Fiber:          0.1g
Protein:     31.5g

Broccoli and Cheddar Frittata

Broccoli and Cheddar Frittata
Serves 4

12 ounce bag of frozen broccoli florets, thawed
2 tablespoons onions, diced
8 egg whites
2 whole eggs
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1.   Turn on your oven broiler to high.
2.   Separate the 8 eggs into a large bowl.  Throw away the yolks (or use an equivalent amount of egg white or egg substitute.)
4.   Add the two whole eggs to the bowl of whites and whisk until fully mixed.
5.   Place olive oil in an oven-safe non-stick skillet. When hot, add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.
6.   Add the broccoli and saute for 5-8 minutes over med-high heat.
7.   Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli. Allow to set for 1 minute.
8.   Using the edge of a rubber scraper, carefully lift one edge of the eggs and tilt the skillet so that raw eggs run into that pocket. Repeat all around the edge until most of the surface is wet, but setting.
9.   Sprinkle the cheese on the eggs and place under the broiler for 5 minutes.
10. Cut into fourths and serve immediately.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        203
Fat:              12.3g
Sat fat:           4.9g
Chol:             226mg
Sodium:         289mg
Carbs:            5.6g
Fiber:             1.8g
Protein:        18.9g

This is very similar to my earlier recipe, Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche, but without the crust, which greatly reduces the carbs, fats and calories.

Use more whole eggs (1 whole egg will replace 2 egg whites)
Experiment with different cheeses
Use different vegetables
Add meats

I Love This Time of Year

I don’t have a large garden, mostly because I really dislike weeding gardens (a holdover from my childhood summers.) But I use several “upside down” systems to grow tomatoes and peppers, as well as a small container garden for herbs. Right now it is June 19 and already I have peppers and tomatoes forming on the plants.

The yellow-ish peppers are Sweet Hungarian peppers and the others are jalapenos.
These are some Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. In the background you can see another planter with Lemon Drop tomatoes. I prefer growing cherry tomatoes because they work so well in salads.
I also grow a few herbs. In the foreground is the simple but important curled parsley, with chives, basil and rosemary completing the set. In another pot, started later than these, I have more parsley, garlic chives and a single Thai hot chile plant. We will see how those turn out.
It’s not a big garden but it is nice to harvest some of my own veggies. When the rosemary gets larger, I used branches of it on my grill. I lay the branches on the hot grates and place the meat, usually a pork roast of some sort, on the branches. It flavors the meat nicely and prevents the meat from sticking to the hot grates. Of course, the rosemary leaves stick to the meat instead but that makes eating a multi-sensory as you pick them off the food.

Camping Adventure #2

We are back from our second weekend of camping. This was at our favorite campground, Quietwoods South in Brussels, Wisconsin. It was another relaxing weekend. No children. No dog. Tammy’s parents came to stay with them.

We got to the campsite Friday afternoon and had camp set up in about 30 minutes. For 20 of those minutes I worked on putting up the screened gazebo with the two long shock-corded poles. For a long time it just looked like a dead spider with the legs on the ground, pointing in all directions. Then Tammy found the instructions and it went up much faster.

Friday night’s meal was a simple one of natural casing hot dogs, with a cucumber salad and some jalapeno pepper poppers. Nothing fancy, just tasty.

Saturday morning we made the scrambled eggs from our earlier camping weekend (why mess with something if it isn’t broken?) Lunch was a treat. We made BLT sandwiches. That means we ate more bread than usual and we had bacon, another uncommon component in our diet. (We avoid it, not because of calories but because of all the sodium in it.) I made mine traditional, with romaine lettuce, a slice of tomato and three slices of bacon, but then I went rogue and added a slice of Vidalia onion and some sweet German mustard. The sweet mustard really complimented the smokey/salty bacon.

Dinner was the main event, with spatchcocked chicken as the centerpiece. Spatchcocking is taking a whole chicken and removing the spine and the breast bone. This allows you to lay it open like a book. It is easy to rub seasoning over all surfaces and it cooks in a short time, too.

This is what a spatchcocked chicken looks like:

I got the fire going and when it burned down to mostly hot embers, I set up the tripod grill and put the chicken on it, skin side down. I had liberally seasoned both sides with Penzey’s 33rd and Galena chicken and pork rub. Along with the chicken, I made foil packets of potatoes and carrots with a bit of bacon, and Granny Smith apples, cored and stuffed with a brown sugar/butter/All Bran cereal mix.

Here is the tripod loaded with the chicken and apples. (The veggie packets are on the rocks to the left cooking in the radiant heat from the fire.)

After 15 minutes, I flipped the chicken (not as easy as it sounds on this tripod.)

The veggies took an hour, the chicken about 35 minutes and the apples about 45 minutes. During the entire cooking time it rained steadily. Fortunately there was a lot of tree cover which helped keep everything a little dry. But we decided to eat in the completely dry camper, and the lighting affected the picture of the meal. But here it is on the plate:

The apples turned out perfectly, especially when we went to the little camp store and bought a bowl of caramel soft serve ice cream.

Sunday morning’s breakfast was another simple meal of Greek yogurt, All Bran cereal and a banana. And coffee.

No more camping until the end of July now. But in 11 days we leave on our driving trip to Boston, Maine and points beyond. Just Tammy and me. Ethan will be on his trip to China and Bennett will be at home with Ozzy. In the meantime, I will get additional recipes here for you to try for yourself.

This was a fantastic Father’s Day weekend. It started with an incredible dinner at the Chef’s Table at Chives on Thursday, and ended with a weekend of camping with just the two of us. I am a lucky man!

First it was Mother’s Day. Today was Father’s Day.

I’m not sure why, but I never posted about this year’s Mother’s Day celebration. And since today my wife surprised me with an awesome Father’s Day present, I guess I need to get everyone up to date.

The day before Mother’s Day we had all of our parents over for a nice brunch. It was just supposed to be a little thing and then everyone was going home. What Tammy did not know was that I had asked her parents to spend the night at our place, so that I could take Tammy to a bed and breakfast up in Door County. So we all enjoyed lunch and sat around the table chatting while I impatiently was stealing glances at my watch. Finally my parents left and I got up to do the dishes. I said to Tammy, “I will take care of the kitchen if you get the clothes off the line and then pack an overnight bag.”

She just looked at me, a stunned expression on her face and said, “Uh. Okay?”

About 30 minutes later we were driving away. She didn’t know exactly where we were going until I pulled up in front of the White Lace Inn, a beautiful old Victorian home located in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. We checked into the Main House Room 4 and then walked to the small downtown for a nice dinner at the Inn at Cedar Crossing. She had wild mushroom ravioli and I had the braised pork rib, and together we finished a bottle of wine (which is more than we usually drink in an evening.) That wine probably accounted for a stop at a candy shop and buying a LOT of candy, which included dark chocolate covered bacon. (I wanted the dark chocolate because that is healthier than milk chocolate!)

We strolled back the inn, and relaxed with a second bottle of wine. When we arose, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast that included an egg bake, and chocolate chip muffin, rice pudding with warm fruit compote and what my son calls “cr-orange” juice (cranberry and orange juices mixed.) It was a very calm, relaxing and fun evening. It was also very out of my norm. I have never planned a surprise getaway like that, not arbitrarily chosen the inn for us. But it worked. We both had a wonderful time.

There are many more bed and breakfasts in Door County, and we will begin explore them.

That was a month ago. About a week ago, I received a text from Tammy which read simply, “Please note on your calendar that you are busy on Thursday June 14 from 5-8pm.”  That’s it.  And she wouldn’t say anything else about it.

I tried to be cool about it, but I was really curious. But she didn’t let on anything other than she wanted to eat as good as possible earlier this week because she wanted to really enjoy this evening. From that hint, I deduced that food was involved somehow! But there are many restaurants in Green Bay, so that really did not narrow it down at all.

Today while facilitating clinical experiences for the students, I kept running ideas in my head. Dinner and a movie? Sushi and a crafting event at a local DIY shop (coincidentally called DIY.) Maybe a dinner cruise on the Foxy Lady (a 90 foot yacht–aka floating bar–that cruises up and down the Fox River.) Maybe dinner at one of the area brewpubs? Or maybe a dinner at a new wine bar that recently opened?

It got to be 4:45 and she asked me if I wanted her to drive. I said that since I didn’t know where I would be driving, that would be fine with me, but she handed me directions printed from Google. Hmmm. Suamico? Could it be a dinner at Chives? We’ve never been there before.

It was Chives. But my wonderful wife didn’t settle for just a dinner at a very nice restaurant. When we arrived, she told the hostess that we were there for a 5:30 reservation. The waitress ask for the name and she said, “LaRene.” The waitress looked at the book and then said three little words.

“The Chef’s Table.”

When I heard that, I almost started giggling with excitement. I LOVE food (in case you haven’t yet realized that) and I love watching it being prepared. I read regional cookbooks just for enjoyment. I love watching cooking shows and talking to chefs whenever I can. And tonight I was able to sit in the kitchen and have Chef/Owner JR serve us. It was six courses of some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. I don’t have recipes for the food, but will describe the ingredients and dishes to the best of my ability.

The starter was a grilled scallop on a bed of grits and topped with a piece of pork belly with creole seasoning. Every bite was a little taste of heaven. And right as I swallowed the last morsel, Tammy said, “Too bad you didn’t take a picture of it.” (D-ohhhhhh!)

But not to worry. I took pics of everything else. The salad was fresh from the vine tomato slices, topped with feta, red onion, olive oil, cherry tomato, grape and mint. (My phone did not take great pics, but it will give you an idea.)

The next course was fresh gnocchi, with duck confit and hen of the woods mushroom. Absolutely delicious. I wish I could push flavors through the blog to you. It was wonderful and the diverse textures from the soft gnocchi to the rich duck and the mushrooms with their earthy bite … words do not adequately describe it.

Then we move to the fish course. I had never even heard of Alaskan Black Cod (also called Butter Fish, according to the chef) but I will never forget it now. It was marinated in miso and then baked, and served over a bed of grilled young broccoli stalks, with a cucumber-ginger salad and a drizzle of Chinese hoisin sauce.

That was the juiciest and richest tasting fish I have ever eaten. I hope I have the opportunity to try it again.

The meat course was another dish that I had never eaten before, a lamb t-bone. It was served on a bed of creamed spinach and home fried potatoes in a Parmesan cream sauce and a little balsamic reduction as a contrast flavor. (I’m drooling a little just thinking about this.)

All the courses were good. No, all the courses were excellent. But Tammy and I agree, this was the high point of the meal.

The finale was dessert. The pastry chef made two individual fudge cakes, but they would not release from the pans. She could not get perfect portions, so she went with Plan B. A lemon curd tart, with fresh passion fruit sorbet and strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

Being served by the chef and watching the food being prepared (as well as listening to the chef talk to his staff about the new restaurant he will be opening) was an awesome treat. Sitting with my wife and enjoying this meal was even better.

She wanted to pick something that she thought I’d like. She didn’t realize that I had been wishing we could go there and sit at the chef’s table since I heard that they offer that service several years ago. This was a gift that was more exciting than she expected. I honestly almost jumped out of my skin when I heard “Chef’s Table” and I stayed that way through the entire meal.

I logged everything on LoseIt.  Sort of. I have no idea what the calories were, or the fat content, or the sodium content.  And I don’t really care. This was a very special meal and sometimes you need to say “who cares!” and just enjoy it.

I came home to a son with a flat tire. And even that did nothing to dampen my excited and enthusiasm. Tonight was a wonderful evening, full of great food, exciting activities and most important,a  wonderful dinner partner.

Now. What am I going to do for next year’s Mother’s Day? I need to start planning!

Today’s Run/Walk Results

It was a wonderful day this morning at the 2012 Bellin Run!

My wife and I arrived at the race on time and bumped into a friend and his children. It was nice to see a familiar face in the sea of humanity that filled the area. A total of 15,137 participants crossed the finish line this year. It wasn’t a record but it was a lot of people! The announcer reported that this run is the fifth largest 10K road race in the US.

This year the run was organized into “corrals” based on anticipated pace. When I signed up, I projected an 11 minute mile pace, but that was before my knees decided to create a new obstacle. I was originally assigned to corral 4, but moved back to the last corral because I knew that I would be only walking. And that was fine, because I was still going to finish the event. (The naproxen that I took before leaving home and the braces on both knees helped.)

In the corral system, when the starter’s gun sounds, all corrals begin to move forward to the starting line, and the timing chip that we wear records the moment we actually begin the race. It takes a LONG time for corrals to move through the start. So long in fact that about 1 minute before Tammy and I walked over the chip sensor, the winning runner crossed the finish line (with a time of 29:04.)

But at 8:30 we crossed the start line and officially started the run/walk. The path meanders up and down a main thoroughfare, with racers filling the road (two lanes in each direction) for miles. The weather was nearly ideal, with a start temp in the mid-70’s and a humidity at about 33%. The sky was blue without a cloud, and the breeze was refreshing at about 10 mph. As we left the main street and turned into the residential part of the race the community was present, sitting along the path, cheering everyone toward the finish line. Many homeowners stood at the roadside, with their garden hoses spraying through the walking masses, providing a brief cool shower. Kids stood spraying walkers with their supersoakers. And music was everywhere. Local radio stations were broadcasting from different points of the course, and where their wasn’t a radio station mobile unit, residents filled the gap with their own music. Also three man polka band played polka favorites (seriously, there are people that really get into that music!) and at another spot a gentleman was playing his banjo and singing a simple ditty to the tune “Camptown Races” (only one verse, endlessly repeated.)

Two related thoughts. I really wish that I had remembered to bring a camera (even just the one in my phone) with me. There were several points along the route that a picture showing nothing but walkers from curb to curb and the length of the road as it climbs a hill would have been incredible to post here. And I really, REALLY wish that I hadn’t left my phone on the dashboard of my car in the hot sun, because now I need to buy a new one.

Tammy and I started the race at 8:30am and we finished it at 10:27am. From there, we walked to the car, picking up a food bag packed for the runners. The banana and granola bar we were given were among the tastiest food we have ever eaten. The bag also included a plain bagel and some pretzels. We opted to not eat those, because we went to Lox, Stock and Bagels for a great bagel. I had a spinach-Parmesan sour dough bagel with green olive cream cheese (full fat!) and coffee. Then we stopped at a greenhouse that was on the walk route and advertised two free plants to any participants. After the race, the place was full of customers getting their free plants–and many other plants, too. (Great marketing idea!)

This is what my result look like:

We had a constant speed of 3.17 mph, which included several inclines. My Fitbit reports that from the time our corral started walking, we walked 13,611 steps and with the hills on the course, climbed the equivalent of 10 flights of steps. In just over two hours I burned 1033 calories.

I have calories to spend and tonight we are attending a friend’s wedding reception. I think I will have a drink or two, as well as some wedding cake!

Next year, Tammy and I will walk it again. Keep your schedule open for the date: June 8, 2013!

Grilled Shrimp Scampi

Grilled Shrimp Scampi
Serves 4

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, divided into four portions
4 tablespoons butter, softened
8 scallions, chopped (the white and green parts)
6 large garlic cloves, smashed and minced
Black pepper to taste
Crushed Red Pepper (optional, and I did not use it)
4 ounces white wine

1.  Preheat grill to get it hot.
2.  Prepare 4 sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil (or 8 sheets of regular foil) about 15 inches long
3.  Combine butter, scallions and garlic in a small bowl. Add black pepper and crushed red pepper (if desired.)
4.  Form each piece of foil into a boat shape. Place a portion of shrimp on the foil. Cover with 1/4 of the butter-scallion mix.
5.  Add 1 ounce of wine and seal each packet tightly.
6.  Place on hot grill for 7-8 minutes.
7.  Open and serve.

Nutritional Data:
Calories:       222
Fat:             12.6g
Sat fat:          7.6g
Chol:            191mg
Sodium:        193mg
Carbs:           3.8g
Fiber:            0.7g
Protein:       17.9g

Tomorrow Is The Big Event

Tomorrow is the much anticipated Bellin 10K Run (or Walk, in my case.)  It begins at around 8am for the elite runners. I will probably start actually walking sometime after 9am. I can’t run it (due to the previously discussed knee pain) so I won’t be starting with the running group. (Speaking of my knee, the MRI and consult with the orthopedic surgeon has confirmed my prediction. I have a bilateral meniscus tear in my left knee. Surgery is scheduled for early August.)

And the cool thing is that my wife, Tammy, will be walking with me! I am excited about that! We are not going to attend the big all you can eat spaghetti dinner for the runners. Instead, we are going to carb load tonight with a bowl of popcorn. Non-traditional, but it is what we want (well, it’s what I want, at least.)

Summer classes have started for me, both the class that I teach and a certification course that I need to take. When combined with our planned vacation and camping weekends, this will be a very busy summer. I am already sort of looking forward to the knee surgery so that I have a reason to slow down a bit.

I’m going to follow this post with a recipe for simple Grilled Shrimp Scampi. It was easy, healthy and delicious!